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RADIOISOTOPE-DRIVEN DUAL-MODE PROPULSION SYSTEM FOR CUBESAT-SCALE PAYLOADS TO THE OUTER PLANETS

Description: It is apparent the cost of planetary exploration is rising as mission budgets declining. Currently small scientific beds geared to performing limited tasks are being developed and launched into low earth orbit (LEO) in the form of small-scale satellite units, i.e., CubeSats. These micro- and nano-satellites are gaining popularity among the university and science communities due to their relatively low cost and design flexibility. To date these small units have been limited to performing tasks in LEO utilizing solar-based power. If a reasonable propulsion system could be developed, these CubeSat platforms could perform exploration of various extra-terrestrial bodies within the solar system engaging a broader range of researchers. Additionally, being mindful of mass, smaller cheaper launch vehicles (approximately 1,000 kgs to LEO) can be targeted. Thus, in effect, allows for beneficial exploration to be conducted within limited budgets. Researchers at the Center for Space Nuclear Research (CSNR) are proposing a low mass, radioisotope-based, dual-mode propulsion system capable of extending the exploration realm of these CubeSats out of LEO.
Date: February 1, 2014
Creator: Jerred, N. D.; Howe, T. M.; Howe, S. D. & Rajguru, A.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department